In the wake of the FBI’s search of fiance Brian Laundrie’s family home, grim but expected news was announced:
Authorities have confirmed that the body found over the weekend was Gabby Petito’s. She was murdered.
The manhunt for Brian remains ongoing, but a trailcam photo showed a man matching Brian’s description in Florida.
Was it him? And what else have authorities learned after their search of the house?
A Facebook user and Florida resident by the name of Sam Bass has a trail camera set up in the woods.
The set up is in the wilderness in Baker, Florida.
That location is about 500 miles from the home of Brian Laundrie’s family — and from where he was allegedly last seen.
The camera, set up to ook for deer and other wildlife, showed a man with a backpack walking through the woods.
He certainly matches aspects of the description of Brian.
Additionally, walking a game trail at night is a tactic that someone like Brian might employ to avoid being spotted.
Sam Bass was quick to note on Facebook that the person spotted on camera was not necessarily Brian.
However, he very correctly forwarded this information to authorities.
While mistaken reports and dead-end leads can slow investigations, we all have a duty to share any earnest, honest information if it helps find a likely killer.
It would be impressive, to say the least, for Brian to make it 450 or even 500 miles from North Point on foot in just four days.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office received the footage and reviewed it anyway.
After all, Brian reportedly used hitchhiking in order to hide his movements … a tactic that backfired.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Okaloosa County Sheriff released a statement after reviewing the footage and conducting a search of the area.
They reportedly did not find any person or evidence of interest, even when using a drone and investigating surrounding farmland.
“There are no known possible past or current connections between Laundrie and anyone in this area at this time to follow up on,” the Sheriff reported.
In other words, police do not seem to believe that the man seen on the trail camera footage was Brian.
With millions of people looking for him, some very actively and others only passively, some false positives are inevitable.
But it is certainly better than the alternative — of no one looking, a grim reality for too many missing women and their killers each year.
We had previously heard that Gabby Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, had received texts from Gabby for days following their final Facetime chat.
However, Nicole expressed real doubts about whether those texts truly came from her daughter.
Until this week, we did not know the details behind what made her suspect that someone was posing as Gabby. Now, we do.
A search warrant filed last week has now been unsealed.
On August 27, which many believe to have been after Gabby was already dead, Nicole received an “odd text” from Gabby’s phone.
“Can you help Stan,” the text read. “I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls.”
Stan is Gabby’s grandfather.
She does not — or, rather, did not, when she was alive — refer to him by his first name.
“The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter,” the police wrote as part of the document.
Allegedly, the Laundrie family found Brian’s mustang parked near the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.
The car had a note on it asking that it be removed, but the family left it there, hoping that Brian would return to it.
Clearly, he did not … but many are questioning Brian’s family’s portrayal of events and whether they expected him to return.
To hear the Laundrie family tell it, 23-year-old Brian — more than a week after returning home without Gabby or any explanation — took off on a hike.
The nature preserve is 25,000 acres. He has not been heard from since.
Even so, it was days after he vanished before his family reported him missing to police.
Notably, Brian had previously been deemed uncooperative with law enforcement as they began their search for Gabby.
Between that, widespread social media attention, and pressure from Gabby’s family, it was an odd time to take a hike.
Considering all of that and the harrowing details of the 911 call describing Brian slapping and hitting Gabby just prior to her disappearance, and no one questions why he vanished.
Some believe that Brian’s family knows more than they have told investigators or the public.
Whether they are in denial or not, it may be that they are trying to give Brian as much time as possible to evade authorities.
However, some have pointed out that Brian might have manipulated them as easily as he did police officers just before Gabby disappeared, and that they might truly be in the dark.
This case is a twisted reminder of the dangers of domestic violence and the ways in which law enforcement and our society fails victims.
At the same time, it shows the glaring inequality of how victims are treated. Gabby is a conventionally attractive blonde girl, and her case is everywhere.
In the area where she vanished, hundreds of indigenous women have gone missing in recent years. We cannot ignore that they did not receive the same spotlight.
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